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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  March 6, 2013 12:00am-12:30am PST

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight at conversation with matthew fox. his new movie is based in actual events. the u.s. sought to bring war criminals to justice while healing relations between the two countries. a conversation with matthew fox coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. lou but it soo tavis: matthew fox grabbed our attention in hits like "lost" and "party of five." he will be starring with brad pitt in "world war z." american occupation sought to bring democracy.
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tommy lee jones stars as general macarthur. the stick look at the clip. >> what the hell is this? >> the conclusion of my investigation. >> i do not see any evidence. >> i have no concrete evidence, sir. it is what we must do. >> based on what? your vote of confidence? >> based on the fact we're here to rebuild japan. >> i am about to make the biggest decision of the occupation which will determine the future of japan. all i have this conjecture. >> will never know the extent of the emperor's involvement. if we had 1000 years would not know it. we have to make up our minds. i have made mine. >> you want me to call washington and tell them i am making my decision? >> no. you're making a because there is nothing that incriminates the emperor, sir. >> are you pleased with that?
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>> it will work. tavis: you are looking at that intently. >> i am very proud to be part of the film and i had a good time making it. and learned a lot. anytime i get an opportunity to combine storytelling with learning some history that i know very little about it is always a win-win so this one was that way. >> i want to come back to that notion of what you learned. we also all -- all saw "lincoln," he stole the project, he was so amazing. the experience of working with him was like? >> it was a real honor. he has reached a sort of a legendary status in the business. i have been a fan of his work. when i heard he was planning
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macarthur i could not think of any actor that was more suited to play that role. macarthur historically is a huge iconic historic military figure, a u.s. military figure. i felt he was going to be amazing in the role. and i was looking forward to see how he approached the the role. he had a much harder job that i did in a lot of respect because very people -- very few people know who the fair, balanced, and unafraid general was and what his role was. whereas macarthur is such a known historical figure that i was curious to see how much tommy -- how much he paid homage to some of the things we know about macarthur, body language and the way he spoke and those types of things and how he brought himself to a. he was incredibly hard-working and disciplined and prepared.
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it was -- really just enjoyed it very much. tavis: this is the 10th season, doing the show. every blue moon i can count 34 times in the course of these 10 years when a particular person walked onto the set, there was a little bit of an intimidation factor for me. having to sit in moderate this conversation. our actors intimidated by other actors? >> i think so. i was certainly nervous. i think that tommy puts off a definite energy of somebody who does not suffer fools lightly. tavis: that is putting it mildly. i was trying to be nice. tommy lee jones has been a guest on this program. i walked out with his reputation preceded him as a great actor. i love the guy and i was honored but i was like, however i going to get this crotchety old guy to
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open up to me an answer my questions and it was not so bad after all but there was a little bit of intimidation and knowing i had to talk to him. not so much with you today. you were a little nervous. >> i was. i also knew that that was going to work in my favor. we had this relationship to build. these two guys and this -- the subordinate position i was in, fellers was macarthur's right- hand man and what followed orders to t and took great pride in following his orders and succeeding and executing. i knew that sort of nervousness i had about working with tommy and wondering how he was going to come into the project because i have been shooting for about six weeks on my own. with all the other actors but
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without tommy. we came -- shot all the macarthur and fellers stuff toward the end. i knew that that was going to work in not just in my favor but the project's favor. he should have that kind of intimidation factor that he is -- with everyone he has come in contact with. it was going to be good and i think it worked out that way. >> want to go to your character specifically. tavis: there have been so many movies about wars, as long as there is hollywood there will be movies about wars, i suspect. this one struck me as interestingly different. it is not about war, it is about the aftermath of war. it is set days after the surrender. tell me what struck you about that script when you saw it
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given it was not about the war. but the aftermath. >> first off for me, personally, one of the things i was drawn to was -- i mean i feel you could spend your whole life learning history. there is so much to learn and i feel like it is part of my education that is very lacking. i do not know as much about history as i would like and american history is relatively short. i felt like my consciousness about how will ii ended was dominated by what was going on in europe. obviously what was discovered in germany and storming the beaches of normandy and going across france and the holocaust and hitler and all that sort of dominates my recollections of what i know about world war ii. when the script came out i felt
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like, obviously you know there is this the other arm in world war ii. the japanese conflict, instigated by pearl harbor in this whole south pacific campaign and we ended using the atomic bomb for the first time in history. then this through weeks or one month and went on for many years afterwards, the occupation of japan. the decisions that were made during that time which would, if different decisions had been made, what have radically changed the last 65 years in japan and in large part, all of asia would have been different. i was just really -- it was very i opening to me. i felt like, well, this is part of the end of world war ii that i know so little about and here is an opportunity to focus on just a couple of week period of
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time and some huge decisions that are made in a moment in history is a really shining moment for america. tavis: shining in what way? >> i think at the end of world war ii when this decision of how they were going to handle emperor hirohito, if you pull the u.s. population -- pullolle the u.s. population, people wanted him hung. there are different historians that have different takes. history has a different interesting way when you look back on it it can shift and change. so but i think the decisions made and ultimately what macarthur recommended to washington to keep hirohito in the emperorship to help rebuild
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japan, even after the way that america was attacked by japan and the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost in the south pacific campaign, that is a real moment of reconciliation and i think making the right choices. i feel like it is a great moment for us. tavis: what did it say to you, those decisions that were made? what did it say to you about macarthur, the general, and what did it say about u.s. foreign policy? the decisions that were made, how did you read that? >> i mean there is obviously making a movie about those types of decisions with what is going on in the world today and some of the conflicts we have been embroiled on and the way that we are accepting this conflict. i saw that there was a parallel there. i really felt like at least the way our film handles what
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happened in 1945, that it shows macarthur was looking down the field along ways. he really i think made very wise and patient decisions even though he was getting an enormous amount of pressure from washington to make a decision and i think he felt that politically. he also had political aspirations and politically, he felt for him to go over there and just round of all these war criminals and execute them and potentially hirohito be one of them would probably be something that was politically prudent. because of the environment that existed at the end of world war ii. and how people felt about japan. to make the decisions that he id based on feller's recommendations, they were wise
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choices and choices that were looking down the field a ways and anticipating what kind of negative things were happening. they made that reaction traces. tavis: you mentioned earlier, everyone knows douglas macarthur. we do not know the name fellers, who was offering him this council and offering suggestions and recommendations. tell me about this character you play? >> fellers is macarthur's right hand man. part of the reason why macarthur gives him this task, macarthur turned over the task of determining hirohito's fate to fellers. fellers has had this beautiful and epic love affair with a japanese girl that starts in the united states in 1930. it was another thing that i was drawn to in the project because i felt it was just very moving
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and it is a love affair that never really gets a chance to exist in a full form because of the war. because of the two cultures that she is japanese and he is american, these two very different cultures go to war and were tears apart. and through his love for this woman, he is really fascinated and intrigued by japanese culture and how different it is from western culture. he cannot control the -- he cannot truly understand her and her feelings for him. he becomes sort of obsessed on japanese culture and language and how their politics and government works. this is the reason why macarthur gives him this responsibility and he has 10 days to make this determination on hirohito. that is what the 1945 part of the film is about.
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it is feller's investigation try to find concrete evidence that hirohito had direct responsibility for the decision to attack pearl harbor. it's hard to imagine a scenario where the emperor of the country may not have that information or may not be the one making that decision but that is how things were structured in the japanese government at the time. it was possible. he goes on this very intense and fills an enormous responsibility and understands because of what he knows about japan, that if he ultimately has to make a recommendation that hirohito be removed, be put on trial, and the emperorship to be removed, the chaos and what it would do to the fabric of the japanese people would be devastating, and would work against what he knew
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would be the efforts of the united states government to help rebuild japan and be a major force in that rebuilding for the first five to seven years. tavis: how did this to the extent that it did, i do not know but i will ask. how did your going back to read this history impact to your thinking about our dropping the bomb? >> i sort of developed my own theory that that is part of the reason why at least for myself, that part of the end of world war ii gets put aside below bid because of our built-in guilts about the fact that we were the first country in the world to use the kind of weapon of mass destruction. and there were many civilian casualties.
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i feel -- i do not know. it has made me think a lot about that and obviously, i think it did end the war and the theory being that had the war carried on, the japanese would have fought on to the last child, essentially. that is how committed they were to their cause, to their emperor, the decisions that were laid down to them. the amount of lives saved by ending the war earlier that it would have been had we not used as weapons i think is still justification for it. it is hard, it is very very hard to wrestle with that. for myself, i just felt like i kind of realized that is part of why that part of the end of world war ii has been a little less, has gotten less focus because of the fact we did use those bombs, whereas the
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european army -- arm of world more i, we weremor heroic. tavis: i am wondering if this project in any way raised level of your curiosity about japanese culture? >> oh, yeah. i mean, i have been to tokyo on several occasions before, before made the movie and have not had a chance to explore japan as an entire country, but i do not know about what about it is always -- has always fascinated me. part of it is just how much of a foreigner you feel in a country like japan. but you know, going back there
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after making the film, going back to tokyo at the end, we shot a few days, we got an opportunity to shoot outside the imperial palace which has never been done before. it was cool to go back to tokyo after making the movie, and all the friends that i made while making the film, a lot of japanese friends. got an opportunity to work with the most amazing japanese actors and that was really interesting. you kind of have a distinct style of acting and it is so clean and simple and still and all the actors in the film have huge reputations in japan and very well regarded. that was a joy for me to get an opportunity to work in the language barrier, but anyway, going back to tokyo after the
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film, one of the things that i was struck by was that city has always fascinated me because it is such a vertical city. i lived in new york in this field even more intensely vertical and layered. then new york does an entire city was built in 65 years. tokyo was reduced to rubble at the end of world war ii. and the only building standing was buildings left standing. and in 65 years, that city has been billed to what is today. the country has been billed to what is today. that was just really kind of eye opening to me. a testament to human work and what can be accomplished in the short amount of time. >> is there anything about this film that you mentioned will be controversial inside japan?
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to my read of it i have not seen that as of yet but it is always fascinating how when a movie comes out about two countries, about a piece of history, and that history gets interpreted and it comes out in one country, someone does not like the way they are being portrayed. >> i think that will be the case on both sides. tavis: tell me more. >> when it comes to making movies, you know, ultimately, you're trying to tell a story that is cohesive and hopefully very moving and potentially thought-provoking and you are using a moment in time, in history in this film. we're using the time in history to tell the story but there have been liberties taken. for the sake of narrative and the sake of a complete film in one hour and 45 minutes or however long it is. i think there are going to be
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americans that fought in world war ii and japanese that fought in world war ii that felt that the movie sabres -- favors one side or the other. i think that is the perspective of people who have the experience -- who have experienced massive loss of life, going through an intense, i cannot comprehend what that must be like. what that must leave you like afterwards in that ingrained hatred and distrust of the people you were fighting against. i feel like they're people live today that will look at this movie and potentially, i hope it is not too many. i hope they can experience the film for what is but i do think that those kind of grudges do not go away easily. and i feel that looking through that, each one of those positions and points of view that they may feel the other side has been given a pass.
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so i anticipate that there will be some of that. tavis: your view of u.s. servicemen and women, mostly men. changed, altered in any way as a result of doing the film? >> i personally feel -- i have always had the utmost respect for the fact, our servicemen and women. as an actor, you spend a lot of time in your imagination. and when you think about the types of things, i tried to bring that to fellers. he is a broken man tasked with this decision and looking for
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love of his life and he is damaged by what he experienced in the war for many years. all the south pacific campaign with macarthur and the amount of men that he lost that were under his command. i spent time trying to find that kind of sort of a broken man, trying to find his way out of the end of this war. you start doing that and you think, god, what it must be like to go through the types of things, the sacrifices, the families left behind. the answer is yes. tavis: can you give us a word about the brad pitt project? >> "world war z" will be a re- imagining of the zombie genre,
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but in a cool way. the kind of big tent pole movie i would like to see. i hope that people turn out and enjoy it. it looks interesting. tavis: right now the project is "emperor," starring matthew fox. good to have you. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with education crusader michelle rhee. that is next time.
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we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. >> be more.
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